MLYNARSKI: Violin Concerto No. 2 in D, Op. 6. KARLOWICZ: Violin Concerto in A, Op. 8. CHOPIN-DEBSKI: Nocturnes Op. 9 Nos. 1 and 2.
Nigel Kennedy, violin; Polish Chamber Orch/Jacek Kaspszyk, cond.
EMI 79934 (F) TT: 71:27
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ARNOLD: Beckus the Dandipratt Overture, Op. 5. Fantasy on a Theme of John Field, Op. 116. Concerto for Two Pianos (Three Hands), Op. 104. Concerto for Piano Duet and Strings, Op. 32.
Phillip Dyson and Kevin Sargent, pianos; Ulster Orch/Esa Heikkila, cond.
NAXOS 8.570531 (B) TT: 66:36
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SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47. LINDBERG: Violin Concerto
Lisa Batiashvili, violin; Finnish Radio Symphony Orch/Sakari Oramo, cond.
SONY CLASSICAL 88697129362 (F) TT: 58:25
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RESPIGHI: The Fountains of Rome. The Pines of Rome. Roman Festivals. Il tramonto.
Christine Rice, mezzo-soprano; St. Cecilia Academy Orch/Antonio Pappano, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 94429 (F) TT: 80:41
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STRAVINSKY: Violin Concerto (1931). Zvezdolikiy: Cantata for Male Chorus & Orchestra. Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920). The Rite of Spring.
Jennifer Frautschi, violin; Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble (Symphonies); Orchestra of St. Luke's and Gregg Smith Singers (Cantata); Philharmonia Orch/Robert Craft, cond. (Rite)
NAXOS 8.557508 (B) TT: 67:42
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Nigel Kennedy's latest recording is a welcome change from standard repertory. Called "Polish Spirit," it features two romantic violin concertos by Polish composers. Emil Mlynarski (1870-1935) assisted in formation of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and his daughter married Arthur Rubinstein. He also was a conductor of note, and led the premiere of Szymanowski's King Roger. He wrote his Violin Concerto No. 2 in 1917, which here receives its second recording: the first featured Konstanty Kulka as soloist and is no longer available so this new recording is a welcome addition to the catalog, as is the violin concerto of Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (1876-1909) written in 1902. Both concertos have exquisite romantic second movements, and in each you'll hear slight traces of Korngold. Neither concerto is likely to become a staple of the concert hall, but these superb performances by Nigel Kennedy make a strong statement for the music. The disk also contains Krzesimir Debski's arrangements of the two Chopin Op. 9 nocturnes. These performances were recorded live in Bygoszcz Philharmonic Hall June 9, 2006 with the Polish Chamber Orchestra directed by Jacek Kaspszyk, and also are available on DVD, although program content is different. Of course the two concertos are on the DVD, but the two Chopin nocturnes are not, replaced by a Bach prelude and Kennedy's own arrangements of Monti's Czardas and the traditional Danny Boy. Kennedy is a sight to behold with his unusual garb and boots and obviously is having a great time and you might prefer to have the DVD instead of the CD. For more on the DVD, please check out the DVD REVIEW.

One of the late Sir Malcolm Arnold's most delightful works is the Concerto for Two Pianos (Three Hands). This was commissioned by the BBC for the 1969 Proms and written for Cyril Smith who had lost the use of his left hand after a stroke in 1956, and his wife Phyllis Sellick. Their superb recording is currently available on ARKIVMUSIC (along with other music of Arnold conducted by the composer). There are several other recordings as well, but this new Naxos issue is equal to the best with pianists Phillip Dyson and Kevin Sargent missing not one bit of the humor of the score. We also have the somewhat ominous set of variations for piano and orchestra based on music by John Field, the delightful Concerto for Piano Duet and Strings, and a brilliant performance of one of Arnold's first works, Beckus the Dandipratt Overture, composed when he was principal trumpet of the London Philharmonic. Terrific performances of all, superb sonics as well. If you are interested in music of Arnold you might try to find a copy of the spectacular 2-CD set issued more than a decade ago by Carlton Classics of the composer conducting his own music all from BBC broadcasts, album 1565691817.

Lisa Batiashvili has won many important prizes and has been on the concert scene ever since winning second prize in the 1995 International Jean Sibelius Competition. Now signed with Sony BMG Masterworks, she makes her debut this this splendid disk of the Sibelius concerto recorded live in Helsinki in May 2007. The coupling is the violin concerto Swedish composer Magnus Lindburg composed for her, which she premiered in New York last year at Lincoln Center. The concerto is written for a rather small orchestra and has three connected movements, the second including a remarkable cadenza that also includes a solo double bass. The brief (3:45) whirlwind last movement ends softly; this music doesn't need a whiz-bang ending to impress. Recorded in the presence of the composer in June 2007 in Helsinki, for sure this is a definitive interpretation, beautifully recorded.

Almost a year ago this site unenthusiastically reviewed an EMI issue of Tchaikovsky (Francesca da Rimini, Romeo and Juliet Fantasy overture, Eugene Onegin excerpts, 1812 Overture) (see REVIEW). It's a pleasant surprise to find the orchestra in top form and far better recorded on this generously-filled Respighi disk that contains not only the complete Roman Trilogy (Fountains/Pines/Roman Festivals) but Il Tramonto, a delectable setting of Shelley's text. These were recorded in concert and in sessions in January 2007 in Rome's St. Cecilia Auditorium. Christine Rice is a sensitive soloist in Tramonto, and the orchestral playing throughout is of the highest level. Pappagno's readings are powerful indeed, and while Toscanini reigns supreme in this repertory, these performances stand up well. It's unfortunate EMI hasn't yet entered the world of SACD; this would have been a splendid candidate for inclusion.

Naxos continues to issue and augment Robert Craft's Stravinsky interpretations with this important CD called Stravinsky 125th Anniversary Album featuring a vivid new recording of The Rite of Spring recorded with the Philharmonia Orchestra January 3-5, 2007 in London's Abbey Road Studio 1. The conductor's earlier recording of The Rite with the London Symphony, was issued on Naxos about two years ago, coupled with Chant du rossignol, and is still available. The coupling is different here—the violin concerto was recorded April 29-30, 2006 with superb young American violinist Jennifer Frautschi as soloist. Craft's fascinating program notes give details of corrected errors in the original score, and this is the first recording of this version. Rite is played in the 1967 edition "with changes incorporated form the original manuscript, 1913," although Craft gives no details of just what these are. Older recordings of the cantata and Symphonies of Wind Instruments (presented in the 1920 version) fill out this memorable release. The more recent recordings are typical of Naxos' sonic expertise.

R.E.B. (January 2008)